This is definitely a first, and it’s something event owners need to know, particularly those whose athletes have developmental challenges. The Special Olympics has added Topgolf as an official sanctioned event beginning in 2024.
Starting January 1, 2024, the local organizing committee for any Special Olympics outing held across the U.S. or around the globe will have the option to include Topgolf as a global medaled event. This opens the door for Topgolf’s inclusion in future Special Olympics USA Games and World Games.
Special Olympic athletes can compete in Topgolf as an individual or with a team through Special Olympics Unified Sports.
Additionally, starting this month, Topgolf will offer free practice sessions to Special Olympics athletes and Unified Sports participants.
The move makes Topgolf the first branded sport to appear and broadens the possibilities for Special Olympics athletes whose mobility may be limited.
“I've been at Topgolf for 14 years, and this partnership will go down as one of the things I'm most proud of,” Topgolf's Director of Charitable Initiatives Tiffany Brush noted in a press release. “Topgolf is changing the traditional definition of 'golfer,' and to see Special Olympics athletes so enthusiastic about Topgolf is a clear example of how we're making the game more inclusive and open for all.”
Topgolf currently has 18 employees who can (or who presently do) compete in upcoming Special Olympics events, the press release added.
The combination of golf and athletes with developmental challenges has been in the news before, with the rise of Amy Bockerstette, who made the news a few years ago when she signed with Paradise Valley Community College, on an athletic scholarship to play golf – a first for any person with Down Syndrome.
In fact, Bockerstette and her teammates competed in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championships, making her the first athlete with trisomy 21 to ever compete in a national collegiate championship. Bocketstette, in fact, is no stranger to Topgolf; she was on hand at Topgolf El Segundo during production of the company’s fall 2022 commercial shoot. It’s safe to say we can expect to see her in future Special Olympics.
GolfWeek also notes that in 2024, Topgolf will host the first Unified Fore Joy fundraising event, which will bring together Special Olympics athletes, Unified partners, professional golfers, celebrities and supporters at five of its U.S. venues.
Unified sports, in which able-bodied athletes compete on teams alongside those with physical and developmental challenges, were also noted as a fast-growing segment of high school sports, by Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in a recent interview with SDM.
Topgolf is continuing to ramp up involvement. Beginning September 15, anyone who visits a Topgolf venue throughout the U.S. and the U.K. will have the opportunity to donate to Special Olympics as part of Topgolf's "Season of Giving," lasting through October 31, 2023.